Tone on Tuesday 126: how design can help political journalism

“Democracy can only succeed if those who express their choice are willing to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy is therefore education. Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you were disappointed with the quality of political journalism during and after this election, you are not alone. Barry Cassidy and Laura Tingle, veterans of the profession, lamented the trick questions, poor analysis and pro-LNP/anti-Labour bias. It needs some drastic repairs, and may I suggest that a couple of design ideas might help the ‘fourth estate’.

A dimension

Almost all of the political discussion was about the two “main parties”, the Liberal-National Coalition at one end and the Labor Party at the opposite end of the same axis: conservative on the right and progressive on the left. These very terms are derogatory: the “goofy left” is a favorite of Sky After Dark, while “far right” is Crikey’s descriptor of the LNP.

Two problems here: there are more than two parties, never so clearly as after May 21; and the linear axis is mainly based on economics: the right “dry” wanting small government and lower taxes and the left “wet” wanting more intervention and government spending, and money to pay them. The single dimension is totally inadequate to describe our current political complexities.

two sizes

The shock to many journalists that there are other dimensions was once demonstrated on Insider ABCs: the australian Judith Sloane criticized all of “left economics” only to be told politely, but firmly, that “we live in a society, not an economy”. Boom tish. Rather than a single axis for the economy, let’s take a second to describe the mores: progressive on social issues to conservative on social support.

These are very different attributes of economics and can be contradictory with each other. It is entirely possible, for example, to be economically dry but socially progressive. Hello Teels. Or socially regressive, but economically progressive, get off PHON.

Three dimensions

This election was fought and won on climate change, i.e. the environment. This gives us a third axis, those who support renewable energy and innovation, and those who advocate for fossil fuels and the status quo. Again, you can see a lot more complexity than one-dimensional economics: one could be an “economic dry” supporting a “leave the market” approach for green shoots – liberals, or a “wet economic socialist” advocating for greater government intervention. for gas and coal – hello Joyce’s Canavan. No wonder they are a COALition.

Architects know that the key to design is spaceis that he has Three dimensions. They know very well that the section and the elevation are as important as the plan. Design is no longer two-dimensional. The revolution of digital drawing, say Mini-CAD, has turned into 3D of Vectorworks or ArchiCad and Revit based on BIM. The ubiquitous Google has SketchUp so even high-level hobbyists can think in 3D.

What a pity that our journalists can only rely on words, which are hopelessly insufficient to describe 3D space. We may need some drawings, so here is a diagram (that I published previously) with three axes for fairness, economy, environment. The triple bottom line, originally described by its inventor (John Elkington in the 1997 book ‘Cannibals with forks‘) as social, physical and financial, and now labeled as people, planet and profit. Now we can plot the position of any party, politician or commentator in three dimensions.

Political colors

Political journalism today is stuck on the 19the century, as if it were a black and white photograph with some shades of gray. Brilliant white or darkest black. Hero or villain. The beginning of the 20e century book Kodachrome© but our reviewers are still stuck in binary. We are now completely immersed in the digital third dimension of VR (virtual reality), games and holograms.

Speaking of color, with the increased diversity of political representation, a fuller spectrum is now possible. Red for Labor and blue for Liberals (curiously, in the US Democrats are blue and Republicans are red). Greens are self-proclaimed colors. Welcome to the also self-proclaimed Teals (Liberal Blue with Green), although Turquoise looks richer, but Cyan is more correct.

But the Nationals lack colors. I suggested in a previous ToT, that if the Greens represent one end of the social, ecological and financial axes, then the Nationals are their opposite, and should be colored accordingly in ‘Crimson’, an extreme red which is the color of the farmer Barnaby’s necks and face.

With Palmer’s yellow and Kylea Tink’s pink, we now have a much fuller swatch to depict our more diverse and complicated political stance. The two-tone red v blue football game has never been a useful descriptor, let alone now. What a pity that the otherwise excellent Antony Green chose to render the independents in gray on his cards. It’s much more “colorful” than that. A third of Australia voted NOT red, NOT blue. Only 16 places, but you watch what happens next time.

More sizes

Buckminster Fuller ruminates on the fourth dimension of design in his book ‘4D Time Lock‘; up and down with the ‘fifth dimension‘; the media now have a ‘Fifth domain‘; Einstein explored ever more dimensions. So many more possibilities. The bipartisan political race is so last month, so so last millennium. The “bipartisan preferred” (2PP) vote is a desperate way to describe the complexity of political positions.

Yet Leigh Sales watches a 32+% 2PP for Labor on election night on ABC and asks Tanya Plibersek “what went wrong for Labour?” when it was clear that Labor was going to win, maybe outright. What went wrong? I would argue that when a generally reliable reporter like Sales asks such a stupid question, then what went wrong was a cataclysmic failure of the Fourth Estate.

Politics has fundamentally changed: more diversity, more independents, broader opinions and a narrower tolerance for bullshit. Maybe a little diagram with some axes to rectify could help journalists in the future.

Tone Wheeler is Principal Architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and President of the Australian Architecture Association. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not owned or endorsed by A+D, the AAA, or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by only reading and responding to comments addressed to [email protected]